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Economic Hardship and the Development of Five- and Six-Year-Olds: Neighborhood and Regional Perspectives

P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Rachel A. Gordon
Child Development
Vol. 67, No. 6 (Dec., 1996), pp. 3338-3367
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131782
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131782
Page Count: 30
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Economic Hardship and the Development of Five- and Six-Year-Olds: Neighborhood and Regional Perspectives
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Abstract

The present study examines the association between neighborhood characteristics and the development of 5- and 6-year-olds. We also explore how region might moderate the effects of neighborhoods on children, thus considering both larger (regional) and smaller (community) contexts of families. We find that structural aspects of the neighborhood at the census tract level are associated with child development in the early school-age period. For the sample as a whole, neighborhood factors play a role in both cognitive and socioemotional outcomes, even when family factors are controlled. Yet only modest support for neighborhood influences on child development is evident in our main effects models. It appears that neighborhood influences on child development are underestimated or masked unless the associations are examined separately by two areas of the United States: the Midwest and Northeast versus the South and West. Significant associations between neighborhood variables and children's development are seen in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions, but less so in the Southern and Western regions of the United States. Greater economic and social resources as measured by average neighborhood SES (income, education, occupation) and greater ethnic congruity as measured by more neighbors of the same racial heritage as the child are related to higher cognitive functioning, but only in the Northeast and Midwest. Furthermore, children in these regions show more competent behavioral functioning when the relative presence of adults to children in the neighborhood is higher. In these regions, African-American but not white children show higher levels of behavior problems when community male joblessness rates are higher. We speculate about processes that might underlie these neighborhood and regional effects and point to directions for further research.

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